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CSAC client accused of stabbing two at mental health agency home

MIDDLEBURY — A Middlebury man with mental health issues pleaded innocent to two counts of attempted second-degree murder at the Addison County Courthouse on Monday. The pleas come after a Sunday, July 24, incident during which he allegedly stabbed a worker and a fellow resident in a Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC) home off Route 7 in Middlebury.
Ronald Bean, 52, faces a prison term of 20 years to life on each of the two felony attempted murder charges, if he is convicted. Addison County Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson ordered Bean to be held without bail and that he be given a mental health evaluation.
A Middlebury Police Department investigation of the incident provides a harrowing narrative of the alleged assaults on Justin Covey, 28, of Colchester — who is a “direct care provider” at CSAC’s Hill House — and a female resident of the facility. Hill House, at 290 Route 7, was formerly the Green Pastures nursing home.
Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) bought and renovated the home in 1995 to house homeless persons with disabilities, including mental health and addiction-recovery issues. CSAC, which has administered programs at the Hill House, purchased the property from HOPE earlier this month.
Hill House residents are not restricted to the premises.
At around 2:40 p.m. on Sunday Middlebury Police Officer Kristine Bowdish was called to investigate the reported stabbing of two people at the Hill House, according to court records. She was told that the suspect in the case was Bean, a Hill House resident, and that he had since fled into the woods, according to the affidavit.
Bowdish reported the crime scene “was distributed throughout several rooms” at the Hill House, with the primary locations including a “crisis bed” area, a second-floor room labeled “G,” and a first-floor bathroom.
Blood was found in all of the affected rooms, with amounts ranging from drops to what Bowdish called “an incredible amount of blood drops and smears” on the floor, bed, window, television and other personal property in the “G” room, the affidavit stated.
Middlebury Police Officer Chris Mason interviewed Covey while he was being treated for multiple stab wounds and other injuries at Porter Hospital.
Covey told Mason that he had been staffing the Hill House office at around 2 p.m. on Sunday when Bean — a client at the Hill House “for a number of years” — asked him some questions about what day it was, according to court records.
“When I told him it was Sunday, he became a little more aggressive with his tone, challenging me on what day it was,” Covey alleged.
Bean, described by police as 5 foot, 8 inches tall and 300 pounds, allegedly walked closer to Covey, asking what his name was, then told Covey to sit down, according to the affidavit. When Covey declined, Bean allegedly pushed him onto the couch and began to choke him with both hands, according to court records.
“I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t make a sound,” Covey told authorities. “I was trying to make noise to alert staff just outside the door.”
Covey said he was able to pry Bean’s hands away from his throat, whereupon Bean allegedly started punching him in the head, according to court records.
After allegedly hitting Covey “five or six times,” Bean allegedly grabbed a pair of grey-handled scissors that were on a cabinet in the room, according to investigators. The blade of the scissors was about 4 inches long, Covey told authorities.
“(Bean) came back at me, stabbing at my head with full force,” Covey told police, according to the affidavit. “I tried to keep covering my head and the side of my face. I was trying to squirm and kick him back as best I could, but given my position (pinned against the couch), I couldn’t get my feet in between me and him.”
During this conflict, Bean allegedly stabbed him in the right calf — a puncture that went into the muscle, according to the affidavit.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but he also stabbed me in the back of my head, behind my right ear,” Covey told authorities.  “He repeated several times, ‘I stabbed you in the brain — how come you’re not dead?’”
At that point, Covey told police, Bean allegedly “got off me and said that he was going to get a bigger and sharper thing to stab me with.”
But Bean instead allegedly grabbed a fire extinguisher mounted on the wall and allegedly sprayed Covey.
“I considered fleeing into the cottage side (of the Hill House), but I worried that it might put people over there in danger,” Covey told investigators.
Covey did make a break for it and got out of the room, closing the door behind him, according to court records.
Police also interviewed a 56-year-old female resident of the Hill House, whom the Independent won’t identify because of her status as a CSAC client.
The woman, who has lived at Hill House for around a year, told police she was sitting in its living room when she heard Covey yelling for help.
“She went to the front room and could see Justin was hurt — she saw him crouched on the couch and there was blood on his head,” the affidavit states.
“She ran outside and got a broom, then returned inside and ‘poked’ and ‘whacked’ Ron, telling him to stop,” court records state.
Since Bean was unaffected by the broom thrusts, the woman ran into a nearby bathroom and locked the door, according to the affidavit. But Bean kicked the door in and “started beating the hell out of me — just beating me down, over and over,” the woman told police.
“I begged him to stop.”
The woman alleged that Bean was brandishing the scissors and a “long stick that was pointed at the end.”
“Bean stabbed her with the scissors through the hand, up her arm and in the head,” the affidavit states.
“I felt blood pouring down my throat,” the woman told police. “I couldn’t breathe.”
Mya Potts, a youth employment case manager and substitute crisis worker for CSAC, witnessed some of Bean’s alleged assaults of Covey and the woman and was able to call 911, according to court records.
Potts described blood “shooting” from Covey’s calf wound, according to the affidavit. She also recalled the female victim holding a towel to her bloody face, according to court records.
“I told her to spit out any blood she had in her mouth,” Potts told authorities. “(She) was covered in blood.”
Police scoured the area around the Hill House looking for Bean. At around 7:50 p.m., Bean walked out of the woods toward police, according to court records.
“He was physically calm but appeared to be very on edge,” the affidavit states. “He spoke about things that did not make sense.”
Police placed Bean in handcuffs and took him to Middlebury police headquarters, where he refused to talk and declined to submit to fingerprinting and photographs during the booking process, according to court records.
Both victims are recovering from their injuries, according to police.
“The injuries, while serious, are non life-threatening at this point,” Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said.
Covey was treated at Porter Hospital, while the female victim was eventually taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Hanley was among eight Middlebury officers who worked on various aspects of the case — the search, the crime scene work, interviews, and follow-up investigation. Middlebury police received help in their search for Bean from two Vermont Fish and Wildlife game wardens and six Vermont State Police troopers, according to Hanley.
AFTERMATH
The chief was candid in voicing his concerns about a case involving a suspect whom Middlebury police arrested two years ago for domestic assault at a North Pleasant Street residence. Bean was held without bail after that incident.
“The placement of a person with a violent history, such as Ronald Bean, in a residential setting exposes staff and other residents to a risk of harm,” Hanley said. “This is another example of our mental health system being under-resourced across the spectrum, with resultant tragedies. I am very concerned about this. Without a coherent and properly resourced mental health system it falls to the police, criminal justice, and emergency services to Band-Aid the problem. There has to be a better solution to this issue and I don’t see any movement in that direction.”
Hanley’s words echoed those of Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell, who commented in a story earlier this month on the increasing demands on Vermont police agencies with regard to people with mental health issues.
“We’re not mental health professionals and we’re being forced to be experienced in many more things than we’re trained to do,” Brickell told the Brandon Reporter. 
Robert Thorn is executive director of CSAC. He led an organization-wide discussion of the event on Monday morning, and said the two injured individuals will be given a full range of support in their recovery. CSAC staff have been offered counseling — also known as a “debriefing” —  to help them process the tragic news, according to Thorn.
Thorn said he’s assigned one of his staff to conduct a review of CSAC’s current policies, procedures and staffing, to determine if any changes are in order. He said there will be a separate “peer review” of the Hill House incident to assess how the incident was handled and how the agency might learn/change as a result of it.
“We understand the community is gong to be concerned when something like this happens,” Thorn said. “We need to treat this at the level this needs to be treated at — it’s a serious issue.
“There’s still room for us to improve our protocols as a community,” he added. “We have very good responders in this community and people who work well together.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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